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Administration Officials Not Invited To Teachers Convention; Probable Heckling The Reason

This is a serious problem, and the media has only been covering the Race to the Top controversy sporadically. Teachers are very, very angry about busi

This is a serious problem, and the media has only been covering the Race to the Top controversy sporadically. Teachers are very, very angry about businessmen with no experience in teaching telling them what to do -- and Arne Duncan is one of them:

NEW ORLEANS — For two years as a presidential candidate, Barack Obama addressed educators gathered for the summer conventions of the two national teachers’ unions, and last year both groups rolled out the welcome mat for Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

But in a sign of the Obama administration’s strained relations with two of its most powerful political allies, no federal official was scheduled to speak at either convention this month, partly because union officials feared that administration speakers would face heckling.

The largest union’s meeting opened here on Saturday to a drumbeat of heated rhetoric, with several speakers calling for Mr. Duncan’s resignation, hooting delegates voting for a resolution criticizing federal programs for “undermining public education,” and the union’s president summing up 18 months of Obama education policies by saying, “This is not the change I hoped for.”

“Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced,” Dennis Van Roekel, president of the union, the National Education Association, told thousands of members gathered at the convention center here.

President Obama and Mr. Duncan have supported historic increases in school financing to stave off teacher layoffs while seeking to shake up public education with support for charter schools, the dismissal of ineffective teachers as a way of turning around failing schools, and other policies. That agenda has spurred fast-paced changes, including adoption of new teacher evaluation systems in many states and school districts, often with the collaboration of teachers’ unions.

But it has also angered many teachers, who say they are being blamed for all the problems in public schools.

[...] The American Federation of Teachers, with 1.4 million members, also spent millions of dollars to help elect Mr. Obama and other candidates in 2008.

“If the teachers sit on their hands this fall, it would be a disaster for Obama and the Democrats,” said Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who has studied the teachers’ unions.

In a skirmish last week over federal education financing, the administration and the teachers’ unions were bitterly at odds. Last year, Congress approved $100 billion in education stimulus funds, about half of it to help states avoid school layoffs.

With that money now running out, House Democrats proposed spending $10 billion more to shore up school district budgets, paying for it, in part, with $800 million in cuts to Race to the Top and two other competitive grant programs Mr. Duncan created to spur his initiatives. Mr. Duncan and the White House supported the $10 billion in new spending, but objected to trimming the grant programs, infuriating union leaders.

“For the Department of Education to say, ‘Everybody else has to sacrifice, but our pet programs must be spared’— that makes me so angry I don’t even know how to say it,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has often been more supportive of administration initiatives than the National Education Association .

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